Parents of children studying at the Royal institute, the International School of Higher Education which operates six branches in Sri Lanka, have complained that with the introduction of retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne as the school’s Director of Administration, both parents and children have now been subjected to torture at the hands of the country’s war veteran.
Several parents when contacted by Colombo Telegraph submitted a dossier of documentation and complained that the school besides filing bogus police complaints against a set of parents also went on to humiliate its children, in its own school premises and also unethically terminated some for non-payment of school fees on time.
A parent whose child is a current student and wished to remain anonymous said, “The school which acquired the services of the retired war veteran Major General Kamal Gunaratne utilizes his services to intimidate us parents, especially when we delay in paying school fees. Gunaratne in return also used his brother A.S.P Amith Gunaratne Director of 119 services and who is attached to the Mirihana Police station to intimidate us. This is when the school made a bogus entry at the Mirihana Police Station and hauled four parents in for an inquiry. Actually the school here is at fault as they keep unethically increasing the school fees every year by huge proportions. There is no proper school fee structure. The fees sky rocketed from Rs 37,000 to Rs 63,000 for some grades such as year 8 and year 9. It was only in 2014 that the school issued a letter stating that only a 12% increase will take place bi-annually. But that practice never happened. The school hiked up the fees in 2016, 2017 and once again in 2018.”
Most of the issues parents faced began in September 2018. This is when the school fees were yet again increased leaving many parents perplexed. However a group of over 250 parents signed a petition and submitted it to the Chairman G.T. Bandara opposing the increase of school fees.
Some parents then visited the office of the school and spoke to its Principal at its Nugegoda Branch to explain their displeasure. This was as the Royal Institute did not maintain consistency with its school fee increase among all of its branches.
However the very next day four parents were summoned by the Mirihana Police Station based on a bogus complaint made by Royal Institute, that a set of parents had threatened its Nugegoda Branch Principal the previous day.
One of the parents who were summoned to the Police Station said, “This was all part of an orchestrated plan. Whilst we were summoned to the Police Station we did not know that over 60 of our children were hauled out of their class rooms for non-payment of school fees and detained in two different rooms. They were deprived from attending classes the entire day. Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne who usually occupies the branch office at Havelock Park, visited the Nugegoda Branch with 10 private security guards all dressed in black outfits. They looked more like mercenaries and bouncers that are usually used at night clubs. When we were informed about it we dialed 119 and complained to the Police Service. We did not know that the war veteran Gunaratne’s brother himself was the Director of 119 services. A Police bike visited the school and went away. They did nothing to heed our call of plea. We then made an entry in the crimes against Women and Children branch of the Mirihana Police Station. Shortly thereafter over 15 children who were subjected to this cruel torture of incarceration visited the Police Station and provided statements regarding the cruelty meted out to them that day. Also around 14 parents filed entries with the Police regarding this matter”.
Most parents are of the opinion that it is incorrect of the school to recruit a war veteran to conduct a civilian role as such as this, especially in the corporate school sector when dealing with kids. Some feel that especially after a prolonged war that the war veteran served in, he ought to be sent for counseling to undo the mental trauma he himself has faced.
“These are our own Sinhala kids that he is harassing in this manner. They are not LTTE terrorist child brigade soldiers. This is a school and he has now made this his own battle ground. He must wake up. The war is over. It is almost ten years since it ended. His crimes committed during the final stages of the war must be definitely investigated, because if he is behaving like this now, I can imagine how he must have behaved during the last stages of the war” another parent said.
Earlier in December 2016 the Retired Major General Gunaratne was also in the news for assaulting a child from D.S. Senanayake College in full public view. The student subsequently filed an entry at the Cinnamon Gardens Police Station bearing number CIB2-345/154 where he went onto state that Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne had held him by his neck and assaulted him and also said, “Do you know who I am? I will break your bones”
The crisis faced by parents of children at Royal Institute is enormous. They have got no one to turn too. The Ministry of Education when contacted by them state the Royal Institute is an International School and does not come under their purview. Others say that even though it is an international school it is in fact a private business run by its businessman / Chairman G.T. Bandara. They also cannot turn to the Law Enforcement Authorities, as the Police Station that comes under the school’s jurisdiction in Nugegoda at Mirihana is manned by the Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne’s brother, who incidentally is a high ranking Police Officer attached there.
Meanwhile two parents speaking to Colombo Telegraph voiced their displeasure as they were forced to remove their children from Royal Institute. This is for the delay in making school fees payment for the current term January to April 2019, which incidentally in yet in progress. (By Janaka Ranaweera)